One of the most important things that Christians can do as people who claim to follow Jesus Christ, is to speak the truth in love. This is not something to be brushed off and considered insignificant, because God has spoken through His Word, commanding those who believe to speak with gentleness, respect. And called His people to bear one another’s burdens. “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1-3 ESV) This helps show the example of gentleness, but what about truth? Truth can be one of the most difficult things to share at times with those whom you love, but if you truly love and desire the best for others, then nothing should stop you from speaking it. Love without truth, is just pity in disguise; and truth without love, is condemning and prideful. Christians (especially Christian Counselors) must be able to exhibit an awareness of what it means to share the truth in love and be willing to follow this practice.
For one to understand how to speak the truth in love, first the concepts of truth and love must be broken down for proper context for a more correct understanding. To do this we must look at what God tells us is truth and love, so that we look past the secular context of definitions into the definitions as defined by the Bible.
Jesus while praying to the Father says, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17 ESV). A Christian Counselor must be someone who stands firm in what God has said in His Word, rather than what mankind has stated. One example would be the nature of addiction, while God tells us that addiction is at its root a heart issue and idolatrous in nature; man wants us to believe that addiction is a disease that certain people simply cannot help. Here is something to think about, if God’s Word is not the objective standard of truth, then as men we have no right to call one thing bad and another wrong; we have no reason to praise one thing and condemn another because every opinion is subjective to another person’s experiences. Thanks to the objective truths in the Bible we have a standard by which we can tell what is right and wrong, not based on our own opinions but based on what God has told us. And God has not only revealed the standard of morality to us but how to go about fixing our brokenness and wrong-doings as well. Christian Counselors do not fix people according to their own standards of morality but use the objective standard given to us by God. This kind of truth is what provides those struggling with stability and certainty. Like a boat that will never capsize so that the people will never be left to the depths of the deep.
Love, like truth, has become distorted within the secular worldview; being synonymous with acceptance and tolerance. I argue that a more biblical and true definition of love is displayed by God in the way that He chooses to care for us not because of affection, but because of His benevolence towards His creation. Love is characterized as an action toward others, rather than an arbitrary feeling of affection and desire. True meaningful love is sacrificial and not centered around personal gain. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 ESV). This is what Christian Counselors are called to show to their counselees, we do not counsel to gain or profit ourselves, but we reach out to help others while they’re in the midst of brokenness. And it is also not because they show us love or care, we care for others regardless of if we receive the same care and love in return. This is what it means to love as God loves, in contrast to how the secular world loves others.
So now, how do we display speaking truth in love on a practical level? One case would be confronting those we know about the sin in their lives. If “Phil” came across one of his brothers in church doing drugs in an alley one day and helping lead in church another, one could only hope and pray that “Phil” would be mature enough to confront him in love. An example of how to go about this would be, “Found in Matthew 18:15-17, it is commonly called church discipline. You begin by confronting the person by yourself. If he or she does not listen, you go with one or two others. If there is still no response, the church gets involved until finally the person is, essentially, confronted by the world. Does it sound harsh? It shouldn’t. It is done with humility and love. The goal is to rescue and restore.” So firstly, it is a priority to pray about the issue and seek God’s wisdom for the situation. Secondly, you must approach the person one on one about the issue at hand. Do not get sidetracked. And thirdly, you must be sure not to come off as offensive so as to not make them defensive. Speak to them respectfully and as an equal rather than speaking down to them as a superior. Another thing to recognize when confronting someone is not to simply accept their excuses or accept their sin as normal. You must always remain faithful to the Word and call sin out for what it is, filthy and wicked. And remember that God offers purification and redemption from sin; He desires to change us, not simply leave us in our filth. God reaches His arms out to men and women even in the middle of all of their shame, just as God does this we should follow suit and approach them in their guilt rather than forcing them to escape their shame first.
Even with all of this wisdom and advice that God gives us through His Word though, it is not a proven fact that it will work the same with everyone that we may come across. I am not saying that the Word of God is not good enough, but rather what is spoken of in the book of John “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” (John 3:19-20 ESV). People do not always enjoy correction, especially when it applies to their personal lives. A person may become defensive, angry, frustrated, and even lash out against those trying to help. But do not lose heart, because God is at work even in moments like these, which can seem impossibly difficult.
Going through this process is not simple; speaking the truth in love is one of the most difficult things for some people to do. But if we genuinely love God and the person dealing with addiction, then we should not be able to help but desire for their well being. And their well being will only come to fruition through God working amid all the chaotic moments in your life and the lives of others. So continue in prayer, remain in the Word, and venture to deepen your relationship with God to glorify Him in all that you do (even the most challenging of circumstances that one may face in counseling). Equip yourself with the Word of God, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV) Counseling that is not for selfish gain, but has the intention to redeem people to God and glorify Him is what we are called to do. Do not forget this constant encouragement in a world that wants any but to have God has lord of their lives.
And so with all of this in mind, I have come to recognize that the words of my own youth pastor from years ago remain true, that speaking the truth in love is a requirement for being an effective Christian for the kingdom. And becoming a Christian Counselor is no exception; sometimes we can forget the basics as we go in our faith and maturity, but we will never outgrow the simple basics that we were once taught in our spiritual youth. This is one of those basic principles of the Christian life, that can seem to be forgotten as we journey farther in our walk with God. Speak the truth in love, because if you love someone, you must tell them the truth. And if you tell them the truth without genuine love for the person, you will be like a loud clanging cymbal. “If I speak in tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-2 ESV).
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